Deanna Harrison is currently the Executive Director and Founder of Pastors’ Hope Network. She started this nonprofit a little over a year ago because she felt a deep calling to offer assistance to pastors who had been suddenly terminated from their positions in their respective churches. Typically, when you lose your job, you would lean into your church family. Where do you turn when that termination also requires you to disassociate from that instrumental support system? Deanna answered the call to provide a solution for those people, and Pastors’ Hope Network was up and running by January of 2019. In order to stay streamlined and keep overhead low, Deanna chooses to make the most of her resources and cowork at her awesome dedicated space at WorkHub.
The genesis of Pastors’ Hope Network happened organically over a period of time. Deanna is the daughter of a pastor and met the love of her life, Scott, and then became a pastor’s wife. In 2008, after 30 years of ministry, the unexpected and unexplainable happened— Scott suddenly lost his job. Unbeknownst to them, a disgruntled staff member had instigated a coup d’etat. They had only two short weeks between the time when they knew something was wrong and the church letting Scott know that he would no longer be leading the congregation. Though the termination was unfounded, Scott chose not to fight the church’s action because of the damage a fight would have caused. The experience created so much grief and was such a rigorous process to work through that it spurred Deanna to use her talents as a writer and craft a book around the event titled Moving On: Surviving the Grief of Forced Termination. The response to the book was much more than Deanna anticipated. She and Scott were far from alone in their experience, and her vulnerability displayed in her book resonated deeply with those who had been through their own traumatic separation from their church family.
“Sometimes people who read my book would send me their phone numbers and ask me to reach out to them. After a two-hour phone conversation with one of them, I hung up and actually felt energized. I thought it was significant that I could have a conversation for that long on such a difficult subject matter and hang up not feeling drained, but energized. ”
Scott and Deanna did literally move on from Missouri to Texas. Being people that are motivated by helping others, they both chose careers in the nonprofit world. Deanna was the Development Director for Habitat for Humanity of Smith County for almost 9 years. She previously held other roles in nonprofit and education, but Deanna has also always been a very accomplished writer. Her gift is complimented by her Master’s in English that she obtained from Wichita State University.
Her prior experience in nonprofit, phenomenal writing skills, and personal experience with forced termination all built such a powerhouse foundation for Deanna to start Pastors’ Hope Network in January of 2019. Her reason for doing so is simple, she wants to be a resource for people who find themselves in the same position that she and her husband were in 12 years ago. In times of deep, unexpected loss and personal crisis, people need their pastor and their church family to lean on for help and encouragement. But when ministers are the ones to lose their jobs, they lose their entire community. Deanna likens the role of Pastors’ Hope Network to how paramedics operate during an emergency situation.
“Paramedics don’t show up at the scene of a wreck and ask, “Who caused the wreck? Who’s to blame?” They simply find the wounded, assess their needs, get them stabilized, and do all they can to get them on the road to recovery. That’s exactly what we do. Our job is not to assign blame when a minister is forced to resign. We love the minister, but we also care about the church so we don’t get into what happened at the church that led to their resignation. It’s not our place to take sides. Our focus is on helping ministers and their families heal by providing resources and a support system.”
Pastors’ Hope Network specifically focuses on helping displaced pastors in three ways. They provide resources to help with employment, counseling, and financial advice. Deanna has partnered with several professional organizations to be able to provide customized assistance for those that contact her. The resources don’t just go to people in the East Texas Area. Pastors’ Hope Network has been able to assist individuals and families in various states across the nation.
“In fourteen months of operation, we have been able to help 49 ministers in 19 states.”
It feels like shortchanging this organization that Deanna has created by calling it a resource. They offer so much more than that. Pastors’ Hope Network is an amazing support system. Ministry is such a massive commitment, not only because of the education, time, and money involved in getting there, but ministers are held to a much higher standard than the rest of us because they are the leaders of the church. They invest so much of themselves in their work that a forced resignation or a termination is sometimes such a fatal blow that recovery seems futile.
“It’s not just a loss for you, it affects your spouse and children. How do you explain to your children why they can’t go back to their church? It can be gut-wrenching because it’s an assault on your calling. It’s not just a job.”
Deanna’s favorite thing about her work with Pastors’ Hope Network is the people she gets to work with. What they are going through and the reason they reach out to Pastors’ Hope Network is incredibly unfortunate, but Deanna offers her own story of triumph in order to show others that they can and will overcome the tragedy that has befallen them. Deanna reinforces that healing is not only possible, it’s paramount to achieve before moving on to the next phase of your life. Pastors’ Hope Network is a perfect place to get the support needed to achieve that healing and start the process of rebuilding.
“One of the most thrilling moments is getting to walk alongside someone through their journey, see their healing process, and see them go on to a new place of ministry. That is a total win! Just because you’ve been wounded doesn’t mean you can’t heal and move on and have God use you in another place of ministry.”
Deanna’s profound empathy and understanding of the grief of pastors affected by sudden termination is because of her profound love for her husband, Scott. He is her soulmate and favorite human on the planet. In her free time, (which is extremely limited these days) she loves to go on dates with her hubby. Deanna’s theme song, “Savior, Like our Shepherd Lead Us” was played at their wedding and has held so true through all the peaks and valleys in their journey together. Scott and Deanna enjoy going on roadtrips to see their kids and grandkids in Denver and Missouri. Deanna absolutely adores her family and practically glows when she speaks of them. In an effort to stay close to her grandkids in spite of the physical distance between them, she is constantly utilizing FaceTime and even records YouTube videos of herself reading bedtime stories that the kiddos can watch before bed.
Deanna loves being at WorkHub because it allows her to share overhead with her fellow coworkers, and it also reminds her of a college library without the books (which she delights in because she would be a lifetime student if only they would pay her to attend instead of the other way around). There’s also the camaraderie with the other professionals that share the space. With so many diverse backgrounds and different specialties found in the friends she has made through WorkHub, Deanna always has someone to reach out to if she needs any kind of professional assistance in an area that may not be her specialty.
“I needed a place for people to be able to meet me that was a safe environment. At WorkHub, people can walk in and not feel judged or exposed. It’s an open, safe place to be and it helps me separate my work life from my home life.”
There really aren’t enough great things that could be said about Deanna. Kindness, warmth, and authentic compassion radiate from her. The first time you meet her, in three minutes or less you will feel like you’ve known Deanna for a lifetime. Not many people would have the bravery and courage to take a leap of faith and start a nonprofit to truly make a difference and step into people’s lives when they feel like everyone else has stepped out on them. If you would like more information about Pastors’ Hope Network, you can check out their website and contact Deanna directly from there. She also has an inspirational blog that you can read at deannaharrison.com. If you need some encouragement, support, or an incredible new friend—reach out and schedule a meeting with Deanna and visit her at her amazing space at WorkHub.